Man who took more than $500K from elderly widow sentenced to 15-month community sentence

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A Winnipeg man who pleaded guilty to repeatedly violating the securities and mortgage broker acts after taking more than half a million dollars from an elderly widow has been ordered to pay back the money and serve a 15-month sentence in the community — though he’ll still be allowed to contact the woman, for whom he’s continued to run errands.

Bret Allan Dobbin, 61, was charged in January 2020 with dozens of offences that happened between April 2016 and December 2017, including trading in securities without being registered and acting as a mortgage broker on his own behalf.

Four of those charges were later dismissed, leaving the 50 charges Dobbin pleaded guilty to. In total, he took $503,237.61 from an 80-year-old woman, some of which was used for his own personal benefit, provincial court Judge Michael Clark said at Dobbin’s sentencing Tuesday.

When he was first charged, the Manitoba Securities Commission said Dobbin was registered as a mortgage salesperson and had worked for a Winnipeg mortgage broker since 2011, but his registration as a mortgage salesperson had been suspended.

Court heard Dobbin wasn’t close with the woman from whom he took the money, but they knew each other because their mothers had been acquaintances and they went to the same church.

On one occasion before the woman’s husband died, Dobbin had dinner with the couple and asked if he could manage the husband’s money — an offer that was declined, court heard.

‘Repeated and an ongoing abuse of trust’

After her husband died, the woman was left with about $500,000 of her own. In 2016, Dobbin met with the widow — who “had very little experience investing money” — and “would ask her to give him money instead of giving it to the bank,” Clark said.

“He would tell her that he would use the money to finance other people’s mortgages who would otherwise be losing their homes,” the judge said, adding the woman trusted Dobbin because he belonged to her church and “promised he would take care of her until she died.”

“He made promises about giving her principal back within two years, and in the meantime, every month, she would receive a cheque for interest.”

While the offences were happening, court heard Dobbin would also drive the woman to church and appointments, and take her to run errands — including trips to financial institutions, where he told her to write cheques, some of which were to himself.

“This is not a one-time act by Mr. Dobbin. It was repeated and an ongoing abuse of trust,” Clark said.

But court heard once the offences stopped, Dobbin continued helping the woman out with errands as he had before — something Clark said he “had difficulty reconciling … with the facts of this case.”

Amount to repay to be determined

While Dobbin pleaded guilty to the offences he was charged with, “that does not change the fact that [the victim] is elderly and in need of assistance, and that Mr. Dobbin provides that service to her,” Clark said.

Dobbin’s conditions, which include abiding by a curfew, also allow him to continue to go to the victim’s home to help her with household tasks and errands.

Clark said Dobbin had also paid back a large chunk of the original amount he took from the victim, though defence lawyer Matt Gould and Manitoba Securities Commission lawyer Arian Poushangi disagreed over how much was still left to repay, considering interest. 

Gould said roughly $200,000 still needs to be repaid, while Poushangi said the figure is $400,000. The final figure to be paid back through a restitution order will be decided by the judge at a later date.

When Dobbin was charged, the securities commission said the incident involving the 80-year-old woman wasn’t the first time he’d been accused of questionable dealings involving an elderly person. 

In 2002, he was fired by Edward Jones Investments for stealing from a widowed client. He was also previously banned by the commission from registration under the Securities Act for 10 years, as part of a settlement in 2006.

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